Eclectic Closet Litblog, Book Reviews & Knitting Designs

A litblog dedicated to book reviews/recommendations, as well as literary and publishing news. Now enhanced with knitting designs.

BOOK REVIEW: The Natural Knitter by Barbara Albright


With the recent increased interest in knitting and natural fibers, the choice of yarns available to knitters has never been greater. In The Natural Knitter: how to choose, use, and knit natural fibers from alpaca to yak, Barbara Albright helps knitters incorporate these good-for-the-planets yarns into their knitting repertoire.

Albright has structured the book in easy to follow format. The first three chapters look at wool, silk and other animal fibers, and plant fibers respectively. Chapters four and five moves beyond knitting and explore the world of natural dyes and spinning.

In her introduction, Barbara explores what qualifies as “organic” yarn and the varying classifications of organic products. In explaining the purpose of The Natural Knitter, she states: “Armed with the information you glean from this book, you will have a greater understanding and a new appreciation of the wide variety of natural yarns that are available…While this book is about natural fibers, it is also about people who take another step toward being more earth-friendly…”

Each of the more than twenty patterns in The Natural Knitter has been created using some of the most beautiful and luxurious artisan fibers by some of today’s top designers. Accompanying these patterns is useful information about of the fiber itself and a profile of each of the companies whose yarn is utilized in a project.

The patterns included here are not only made out of special yarns but many feature unique construction as well. Lidia Karabinich’s “Memories of Ukraine” sweater is made from linen and features her signature seamless yoke. Debbie New’s “Cast-Off Clothing” is made with hemp yarn and features a net-like stitch created while New was experimenting with loose cast-off methods. Knitters who wish to make something with the prohibitively expensive qiviut yarn will be drawn to Linda Romens’ “Qiviut Twinset.” Made with a qiviut/wool/alpaca blend, the yarn has an incredible 275 yds per 57 gram ball and yet, as Romens explains, it is fabulously warm.

The Natural Knitter: how to choose, use, and knit natural fibers from alpaca to yak is Barbara Albright’s final publication and is a fitting tribute to the significant contribution she made to the craft she loved. Her passing in 2006 was a significant loss to the knitting community.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1400053528
ISBN13: 9781400053520

192 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: March 3, 2007


BOOK REVIEW: The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs


Tucked away on a second story in Manhattan’s Upper West Side is a hidden gem, Walker & Daughter. This treasure trove of textiles is the result of years of hard work by Georgia Walker: knitwear designer, proprietress and single Mom to Dakota. Years ago, when James walked away during her pregnancy, Georgia wasn’t sure she’d make it. Thanks to the support of her mentor (and clerk) Anita, Georgia’s business has thrived and so has Dakota.

More than just a shop, Walker & Daughter is a haven for many of the customers and the result is The Friday Night Knitting Club, started by some of the regulars. As James returns wanting a larger role in his daughter’s life and an old “friend” from high school shows up, Georgia will need all the support these supportive knitters can provide.

The Friday Night Knitting Club, Kate Jacobs’ debut novel, while set within a knitting group really could be written in any setting. Superficially about knitting, in reality this is a novel about the importance of friendship and love. Georgia has closed herself off from the world and has focused everything into Dakota and making a success of her store. She has eliminated the possibility of getting hurt again, but she has also remained aloof from the friendship offered by customers and employees. Jacobs’ message is a universal truth – life will quickly pass you by if you turn your back on possibility.

Jacobs has cleverly divided her book into sections representative of the various stages of knitting projects that also tie into her unfolding novel. These sections are written as knitting instruction but are true to life: “You have to experiment to see what works. But there’s a similarity no matter the method: you either try or you don’t…Casting on is as much a leap of faith as technique.”

After a slow start, The Friday Night Knitting Club engage its readers in the unfolding life dramas of the knitting club members. However, readers expecting a superficial, happy novel of sisterhood should be prepared for some heart-wrenching moments as The Friday Night Knitting Club takes an unexpected turn.

ISBN10: 0399154094
ISBN13: 9780399154096

352 Pages
Publisher: Putnam
Publication Date: January 18, 2007


BOOK REVIEW: Mason-Dixon Knitting by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne


In 2002, Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne met on the Rowan Yarns online forum and a legendary correspondence was born. Yankee Kay and Tennessean Ann are the personalities behind Mason-Dixon Knitting and over the years they have developed a dedicated following of knitters who enjoy their irreverent correspondence and breezy guidance through Knitopia.

Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Curious Knitters’ Guide: Stories, Patterns, Advice, Opinions, Questions, Answers, Jokes, and Pictures is a superb collection of thirty-four patterns that has knitters around the world obsessively knitting Baby Bibs O’ Love and Mitered Square Blankets.

The projects here are useful, sure to inspire beginners and experienced knitters alike. Beginners who are tired of scarves can choose from washcloths, towels, bibs and rugs, as Kay and Ann tell us “Remember: No project is too ambitious if you crave the result enough.” To that end they’ve included patterns for beautiful nightie and robe set made from linen yarn, log cabin bedspread and an elaborate lace lining for Moses baskets.

Kay and Ann provide knitters permission to experiment and play with yarn. Their Mitered Square Blanket proves that playing with colour is the “most fun part.” This basic pattern can be knit in anything from two to forty colours, as a blanket or bedspread. The project is limited only by the knitter’s imagination.

Full of Kay and Ann’s trademark wit and style, Mason-Dixon Knitting is a must have for all knitters. Expect it to quickly bear all the signs of a well-loved favourite.

Try out the Log Cabin throw (PDF download).

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0307236056
ISBN13: 9780307236050

160 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: March 28, 2006
Author Website:
All important Pattern Errata for Mason-Dixon Knitting


BOOK REVIEW: Wendy Knits: My Never-Ending Adventures in Yarn by Wendy D. Johnson


I’m quite behind on my reviews of knitting books, so for the next few days I’ll be posting reviews for a number of them – and a few other stragglers sitting in my “reviews to be written pile.” Then beginning February 12, I’ll be posting reviews to participate in the Debut a Debut contest. Anyone else planning to participate?

Wendy D. Johnson is one of the luminaries of the knitting world. Her blog has more than 3 million visitors per month, a testament to the power of her prose. Wendy Knits: My Never-Ending Adventures in Yarn is her eagerly awaited first book which combines Wendy’s reflections on a life lived with yarn and twenty of her knitting patterns.

Wendy’s writing is conversational, you feel like she’s sitting next to you telling her stories. The patterns are interspersed throughout the book beginning with the simplest projects (a dishcloth) and culminating in a steeked Scandinavian pullover. Regular readers of her blog may find some of the content familiar but here readers receive more than just glimpses into Wendy’s knitting life. For example, her chapter on “knitting for charity” explains how Wendy began the charity “Knit-alongs”, a feature of her blog, and why she is a passionate supporter of pet rescue organizations. Her passion for the cause is evident and I suspect that many a catnip mouse will be knit after reading Wendy Knits.

A knitter can easily knit their way through this book and beginning knitters will find projects which increase gradually in difficulty; however, the strength of this book is the insight it provides into the creative process of an incredibly prolific knitter. The only complaint about Wendy Knits is that the book has been produced in black and white. Colour photos would have really enhanced the value of this book and made the projects even more appealing.

Sample Pattern: Wendy’s Easy One-Skein Hat

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0452287324
ISBN13: 9780452287327

Trade Paperback
212 Pages
Publisher: Plume Books
Publication Date: April 25, 2006
Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Naughty Needles by Nikol Lohr


The past few years have seen knitting rapidly expand beyond a granny craft. With the explosion of knitting blogs, knitting has come out of the closet with a variety of designers creating racy lingerie and adult garments. Nikol Lohr’s recently published book of knitting patterns Naughty Needles: Sexy, Saucy Knits for the Bedroom and Beyond invites knitters to “knit naughty” and explore their inner sex kitten.

Channeling classic 40s Fredericks of Hollywood, Lohr’s patterns can be knit in playful and vampy versions. Those aiming for the Austin Powers Fembot look can knit their nighties in feminine pink while the bad girls can go for racy black. Bikinis come in several dress-up styles ranging from Gidgit to b-movie cave girls, and the various patterns aim to provide something for all skill levels.

The later half of Naughty Needles contains patterns for adult dress-up and games. As Lohr states, her Baby Blue Ball Gag “is a dandy stash-buster and a wonderful short-row primer.” Her knitted straitjacket can be knit in a compos mentis version for those who are no longer a danger to others or themselves.

NB: There is partial nudity and adult activity shown in some of the photos, as well as some “explicit” illustrations. Knitters may wish to keep this stashed safely out of reach of young children.

Visit the official Naughty Needles website for some free patterns and wonderful wallpaper for your computer.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0307337375
ISBN13: 9780307337375

Trade Paperback
144 Pages
Publisher: Potter Crafts
Publication Date: December 19, 2006
Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Knit.101 by the editors of knit.1 magazine


Targeting 18-35 year-olds, Vogue® Knitting launched knit.1 in 2006 to appeal to the edgy, hip young things that had begun to take up knitting and crochet. They partnered with Lion Brand® Yarn to create designs which could be made inexpensively with yarn which is widely available.

Following up on the success of this new magazine, knit.1 has now published knit.101: the indispensable self-help guide to knitting and crochet. Collecting together techniques and patterns, knit.101 covers everything from casting on to construction and everything in between. Rather than having the patterns at the end, knit.101 intersperses technique with patterns, leading beginning knitters through a series of projects which will help them learn technique while, as editor Adina Klein states, making “…a one-of-a-kind creation…with your two cute little hands!”

Two-thirds of the book covers knitting, one-third is crochet. There are patterns here for bags, iPod holders, legwarmers and string bikinis. If you are a devotee of the magazine, then you probably won’t need this book. Many of the projects featured have already been published in the magazine. If you’re looking for a book to teach you or someone else how to knit or crochet and you fit the demographic of knit.1, then this book will suit you perfectly.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1931543968
ISBN13: 9781931543965

160 Pages
Publisher: sixth&spring Books
Publication Date: January 2007
Magazine Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Knitting Memories edited by Lela Nargi


Knitting is more than just a craft or the creation of something to wear. Between the knitter and yarn there is a tactile experience and a time of reflection, a chance to meditate or let the mind wander as it will. Between the knitter and the knitting is a relationship and it is this that Lela Nargi explores in Knitting Memories: Reflections on the Knitter’s Life. This collection of sixteen essays has been written by knitters and non-knitters, givers and receivers, knitting stars (such as Lily Chin) and hospice-care workers. Here they reflection on the insights knitting has brought to their lives.

In her introduction, Nargi shares the story of her two-year-old daughter Ada’s relationship with knitting. As she thought about the pieces Ada was drawn to, Nargi shares the philosophy she used to pull together the disparate elements of this collection.

“These pieces of knitting…are intricate stories waiting to be unraveled, and mostly they are stories about relationships…The story can be one that has to do with history, tracing knitting’s broad and narrow channels through the ages, linking knitters to ancient craftspeople or perhaps just our own mothers and grandmothers. And the story is also, sometimes, one about pure imagination – the way knitting exists in our minds as fertile territory to be plumbed, picked at, reveled in, and perhaps eventually presented to others so that they, too, may share in the imaginings.”

What makes this collection more than yet another collection of knitters discussing the meditative aspects of knitting or the joy of giving, is the inclusion of essays by non-knitters. Of particular note is Cedric N. Chatterly’s essay “Virginia” share the joy she and her knitting have brought to his life. In “Silent Communion,” Robert Bruce Cowan writes compellingly about his resentment for the activity which steals away his wife making him feel “the house isn’t big enough for the both of us.” Yet he also realizes that his world is perfectly at peace when he is puttering and she is knitting.

This small hardcover is the perfect item to tuck into a knitting bag for moments stolen between projects or when the knitter needs to be reminded of their place in the larger story.

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 0760326487
ISBN13: 9780760326480

224 Pages
Publisher: Voyageur Press
Publication Date: August 31, 2006
Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Lion Brand Yarn Vintage Styles for Today


Nancy Thomas and Charlotte Quiggle have combed the Lion Brand archives for patterns to reinterpret for today’s modern lifestyles. Lion Brand Yarn Vintage Styles for Today: more than 50 patterns to knit and crochet is the result, illustrating the company’s contribution to fashion over the last century.

To use vintage patterns to make modern garments, attention must be paid to sizing and fit. In the past, styles were more fitted with higher armholes, narrower waists and less ease. As the editors point out, “since our bodies are so different today from those of our forebears, whether because of undergarments or because of diet, any reference to “size” in a vintage pattern is relatively meaningless.”

Today, fit is looser and for some patterns in Lion Brand Yarn Vintage Styles for Today significant design changes have been made to create modern looks. One blanket, originally created as a baby item, has been redesigned in bulky yarn resulting in the stitch pattern now appearing as a modern leaf design.

The patterns in Lion Brand Yarn Vintage Styles for Today are evenly split between knit and crochet and all skill levels are covered. All patterns of course use Lion Brand yarns; however, the Standard Yarn Weight system icons are included for each pattern, allowing for yarn substitutions. Patterns cover the gamut from unusual shrugs to sweaters, layettes to something for man’s best friend – there is something here for everyone on your list.

ISBN10: 1400080614
Trade Paperback
192 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: January 24, 2006
Website: Lion Brand Yarns


BOOK REVIEW: Home Knits: Luxurious Handknits for Every Room of the House by Suss Cousins


Home Knits: Luxurious Handknits for Every Room of the House is the latest offering from Suss Cousins, author of two previous knitting books (Hollywood Knits and Hollywood Knits – Style). Best known for her yarn collection and designs for Hollywood movies (her latest project can be seen on Tim Allen in Santa Clause 3), in Home Knits Cousins designs 30 projects to bring her trademark style to your home.

When Cousins moved to a new home, she was inspired to create the designs in Home Knits. The designs combine the clean Swedish designs Cousins grew up with and mix old with new. Since she wanted to use a subdued colour palette, the designs in Home Knits have an emphasis on texture. In some projects, unusual materials are employed: curtain tiebacks are made using cotton twill tape and coasters are constructed out of jute twine; however, the rest of the patterns are made using Cousins’ line of yarn. Any of these designs can be made using other yarn and a helpful yarn substitution guide is included at the back of the book.

Home Knits has patterns for knitters of all skill levels for everything from pillows and napkin rings to bedspreads and wall hangings. Beginners will be tempted by the luxurious colours and textures of the Big Pillow Cover or the softness of the Luxurious Bedcover. More experienced knitters will be itching to knit up one of Cousins’ lampshades or her Ottoman Cozy. Experts will want to knit up the Kimono Robe in their favourite colour or be inspired to create their own piece of wall art.

Suss Cousins’ next book, Wedding Knits: Handmade Gifts for Every Member of the Wedding Party, will be published by Potter Crafts on January 2, 2007.

ISBN10: 0307335917
ISBN13: 9780307335913

160 Pages
Publisher: Potter Craft
Publication Date: November 2006
Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: The Vogue Knitting Stitchionary Volume Three: Color Knitting by Vogue Knitting


Collecting together more than 200 color knitting patterns from the pages of Vogue® Knitting magazine, Color Knitting is the third volume in the Vogue® Knitting Stitchionary series. Calling these volumes the “ultimate stitch dictionary,” the editors of Vogue® Knitting magazine have selected a range of designs sure to challenge and inspire knitters of all skill levels. For each pattern, a large sample swatch is shown; some in quite unusual color combinations.

Color Knitting is made up of five chapters: Two Color, Fair Isle/Multicolor, Intarsia/Motifs, Adding Texture, and Slip Stitch. In each chapter the patterns are organized from easiest to hardest. The patterns in the first three chapters are presented as graphs only. The final two sections, which incorporate both stitch patterns as well as color, are presented with both charts and written instructions.

Color, perhaps more than any other element of design, is subjective. Everyone has preferred colors, and the colors in which a design is shown can lead one to reject it without assessing the pattern itself. To provide an overall flow to the stitch dictionary, the editors have presented each chapter in a different palette. For this to be a useful volume, knitters must use it as a starting point, find their own preferred color scheme and be creative.

Vogue Knitting Stitchionary Series
Vol. 1 – Knit & Purl
Vol. 2 – Cable Knitting
Vol. 3 – Color Knitting

Read the review at Armchair Interviews.

ISBN10: 1933027029
ISBN13: 9781933027029
240 Pages
Publisher: Sixth & Spring Books
Publication Date: October 2006


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